Keeping Track Clean - Graphite stick

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Keeping Track Clean - Graphite stick

Postby rue_d_etropal » Thu Feb 15, 2007 11:22 pm

Can't find originl message, but I think it was something Steve recommended. I purchased some artists graphite sticks, and after cleaning my track rubbed this in, and was absolutely amazed at the improveed running. 8) :idea: :idea:
Track cleaning rubbers are a thing of the past for me Gnow :lol:

Tried it on various types of track, nickel silver OO, steel OO pointwork and even LGB G gauge brass rail( I had been having problems with slow running, and Gnow my D45 scale loco will now happily shunt at a more scale speed :lol: :lol: )
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Postby Steve Bennett » Thu Feb 15, 2007 11:28 pm

:D Another convert, glad to see you tried it Simon, yup it makes the world of difference to the running of a layout, you will never go back to the old ways again.
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Postby rue_d_etropal » Thu Feb 15, 2007 11:45 pm

Steve,
what amazes me is that such a simple idea is not used universally. Surely ther likes of Peco and Hornby could have produced their own version of a graphite stick, and then promoted it as a model railway accesory(thereby allowing them to charge even more)

It did take a little time to work on the OO track, but was virtually instantaneous on the LGB brass track.I wonder if the heavier locos pressed down on the graphite better, causing a faster chemical reaction.

Only downside is the graphite covered fingers :mrgreen:
Simon Dawson
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Postby Alan » Thu Feb 15, 2007 11:56 pm

Simon

The trick now is to not clean it again, just add more graphite when performance degrades. Provided you cleaned the track thoroughly before application of the graphite, it'll be amazing every time.

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Postby SOUTHPASS » Thu Feb 15, 2007 11:59 pm

G,day.... I avoid those rubber cleaning blocks like a day at work :D . As basically they are an abrasive they leave minute scratches on the railhead (they may be microscopic, but they are still scratches). These marks are the perfect place for corrosion to start.
I,m not saying this is the proper way to clean track, but it is my way :wink: . I have cut 1inch square blocks of 1/2inch ply and rub these along the railtops to polish them. On the SouthPass & Pacific (my exhibition layout-now sold) this method was used and at times it has been sitting for over twelve months and trains have been placed on the track and running with no cleaning. After a show I would give the tracks a rub over with these blocks to get the black residue that would form after 3, 8hour days of running. Now that smoking has been totally banned from these public shows it should be even easier :) . I have yet to try the graphite, but have a bottle in my workshop with about a kilo. of graphite powder in it, might try it if my shunters get a bit contankerous :D
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Postby Steve Bennett » Fri Feb 16, 2007 12:00 am

If you want to keep the fingers clean, try a carpenters pencil, a bit cleaner to work with.
It's not a chemical reaction, the graphite is a conductor for the electic. As the layout is run the graphite will get worked into any slight imperfection in the rail surface and keep the rest of it clean, so you get almost perfect current collection. The more the layout is run, the better it will get. You will probably find that a second treatment after a bit of running will improve things again, then after that, you only need to apply the graphite to the odd spot, if the running starts to deteriorate, or sometimes if the layout has not been run for a long time. Regular cleaning will now be a thing of the past and you wont need to clean wheels either, dont touch them though if you want to keep clean hands :)
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Postby DCRfan » Fri Feb 16, 2007 10:12 am

Did I miss something :oops: I always thought the G in Gn15 stood for Graphite :lol:
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Postby Will Vale » Fri Aug 14, 2009 4:47 am

Sorry to dredge this topic up again, but I wondered if I could get some advice on when to apply the graphite. I have a new layout at the boards and track stage at the moment, and I want to run it like that for a while before painting and ballasting the track. Should I graphite it now, or will give me painting troubles? (not sticking, discolouration, etc.)

I've used graphite on other layouts and it's definitely the One True Way, but in each case it was ballasted etc. before I started.

One other related question - are fibreglass pencils/brushes an good non-scratching rail cleaner? I used one to take some tarnish off a bit of rail and it was very effective, better than anything else I've tried. But I don't want to make a habit of it if they're going to cause pitting or scratching.

Many thanks,

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Postby Glen A » Fri Aug 14, 2009 6:28 am

:P Well I'll stick my head out here, and say that I am one who is yet to be convinced. (I gather Prof might be another by his recent tip to take a track rubber to an exhibition).

I have tried a 3B pencil, and a carpenters pencil, and I did get a good days running.
But by the next morning the trains were running like crap again :cry: , so out came the evil track rubber :twisted: , and Ah, bliss, nice running trains again :D .

:? What did I do wrong, is a graphite pencil different? :roll:

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Postby Gerry Bullock » Fri Aug 14, 2009 7:56 am

Glen A wrote:
I have tried a B3 pencil, and a carpenters pencil, and I did get a good days running.
But by the next morning the trains were running like crap again :cry: , so out came the evil track rubber :twisted: , and Ah, bliss, nice running trains again :D .

:? What did I do wrong, is a graphite pencil different? :roll:


Simple you cleaned the rails with track rubber Glen you should have merely taken the Carpenter's pencil round the track and "Magic" you would have had brilliant running once more. I don't think anyone has ever said that you only need a single application of the graphite. As it builds up the running gets better (up to a point obviously). Never clean the Loco wheels either which will look grotty, it's just the graphite again improving the conductivity.
Whilst I cannot equal Steve's running times with graphite all I can say is that the Salt Pan/Gneiss Farm and now Somerset Cider haven't given any serious problems at Exhibitions using graphite. Days of Exhibition running so far = 23, most of these with the Salt Pan layout.
Regular comments we get "your track looks dirty" YES "don't you clean it" NO :!:
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Postby Jon Randall » Fri Aug 14, 2009 10:47 am

This is my method, wouldn't like to say if it is better or worse than other methods because I haven't done any side-to-side comparisons.
1, Paint rail,
2, Place and fix track,
3, Clean top of rail with a piece of stiff card,
4, Wipe top of rails with isopropinol/methylated spirit/any other cleaner which evaporates totally, I use Lighter Fluid but that's only because its on the shelf behind me.
5, Apply a little graphite to a section of track and run engine around. If engine stalls or slows at a certain area I investigate track gauge and scenery if not then a bit more graphite.
6, Have a cuppa and watch the trains.
7, Ballast.
8, Repeat No. 6.
9, A year or so later repeat No 5.
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Postby Sir Briand » Sun Aug 16, 2009 9:57 pm

As one of Steve's early disciples I can't imagine why my name hasn't appeared on this thread before :shock:

It all started with Underneath the Arches. The upper loop is On9. The locos are Avalon ones on teeny 0-6-0 mechanisms with NO weight, or at least nothing to boast about. It didn't matter what I did I could never get them to run smoothly AND slowly. Hares yes. Turtles no. Exhibition running was very stressful as a result.

Then came Steve :D :D :D

All rail was cleaned with a rag soaked in alcohol and then the graphite stick was rubbed over all rail surfaces.

The results were amazing :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: Those same little ***** locos c r a w l e d along steadily for the whole next show, and have done so ever since with the occasional dose of graphite.

Image

Image

Something that has not really been mentioned so far is the fact that all the loco wheels are still squeeky CLEAN :shock: They have not been touched since the initial cleaning. I have no idea what the wagon wheels are like as I have never looked at them that closely.

Someone mentioned that the rails are not shiny. Nickel silver has a real shine to it when clean but does steel have the same look? It has a subtle greyness to it. Guess what? Looks just like graphited nickel silver :roll:

The same graphite stick is still going and has been used on my Gn15 layouts and have run flawlessly. After a few months of sitting idle a touch up might be needed but that is it. Mechanism wheels here also spotless after many,many hours of running.

Oh yes. I did have problems with Upton Whent at a couple of spots but I eventually discovered that there was still some paint on the INSIDE of the rail head in these spots. Complete removal of this effected a complete cure.

GO FOR GRAPHITE!
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Postby More_Cats_Than_Sense » Sun Aug 16, 2009 10:11 pm

Exhibited Katham House in its 4'x2' form at Dereham today and Potter Heigham last month, the track has been graphite treated for about a year now. A Bachmann Davenport (with a Sidelines Cab conversion) ran around KH all day with no problems. This loco and train was lapping the long loop (approx 10') in a time of around 1min 23 sec consistantly and repeatedly. I was so confident of its running that I wandered off several times to look at other layouts and to grab a cup of tea.

I will freely admit that I was one of the doubters concerning graphite, but once I took the plunge, I was converted. The wheels and track must be clean before the first application though.
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Postby Gavin Sowry » Sun Aug 16, 2009 10:26 pm

More_Cats_Than_Sense wrote:... graphite treated.... A Bachmann Davenport (with a Sidelines Cab conversion) ran around all day with no problems. I was so confident of its running that I wandered off several times to look at other layouts ..


8) My experience, exactly :!:
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Postby Steve Bennett » Sun Aug 16, 2009 11:42 pm

Glen A wrote::P Well I'll stick my head out here, and say that I am one who is yet to be convinced. (I gather Prof might be another by his recent tip to take a track rubber to an exhibition).

I have tried a 3B pencil, and a carpenters pencil, and I did get a good days running.
But by the next morning the trains were running like crap again :cry: , so out came the evil track rubber :twisted: , and Ah, bliss, nice running trains again :D .

:? What did I do wrong, is a graphite pencil different? :roll:


I'm sure there is another thread running about graphite, as I just posted on it :lol:

To be more serious though, if you had good running after applying the pencil, it should be graphite. There are synthetic pencils around these days, but I have not come across a carpenters pencil yet with a synthetic lead.

From your description, I would say that there are 2 possible reasons why the second day you got crap running.

Both are linked to using an abrasive cleaning method in the past. Firstly, any abrasive cleaning leaves a residue around the rails with track rubbers being one of the worst offenders, as the tiny particles have a static charge in them, which can attract them back to the rails again. In addition, due to the abrasive nature, they put millions of tiny scratches in the surface of the rail, which when you run a train over them, fill with microscopic dirt, not helped by the arcing of the electrical current between rail and loco wheels.

So if you have been using abrasive cleaners in the past, a bit of preparation is required before you will get the full benefits of the graphite. To start with, try to get rid of as much residue from around the tracks as possible, if you can get at it with a vacuum cleaner, so much the better. Then clean the running surfaces with a cloth and an alcohol cleaner like isopropanol, methalated spirit, surgical spirit,lighter fuel or at a push, WD40. Then it is time to apply the graphite, go along the tops of the rails where you can get at them, any areas you cant get at, will get coated by the train running over them, but it will take time to build up.
As the surface of the rail has already been damaged, it may take several applications of graphite before you get the full effect, it takes time for all those little scratches to fill up with compacted graphite dust. If after a while the running starts to deteriorate in a few areas, just run over those areas with the pencil again. Dont be tempted to go back to the beginning again, the secret is not to clean the track, just keep adding more graphite if needed.

To give you an idea, my exhibition layout has not had the track cleaned (or wheels) in 7 years of shows. I did start with new rails though :) I used the pencil for the first 3 shows and the only attention it has had since, is the occasional application on the turnout frog and the odd demonstration to show how easy it is to run the pencil along. The track looks filthy and touching it with your fingers wouldn't be recommended, but the running is pretty much faultless.

I hope that is of some help, give it a go and let that graphite build up :wink: :wink:
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Postby Steve Bennett » Mon Aug 17, 2009 1:02 am

Sir Briand wrote:As one of Steve's early disciples I can't imagine why my name hasn't appeared on this thread before :shock:


Well, I cant take the credit, that belongs to an old friend who is no longer with us. I'm fed up with doing admin work, so here is the story to bore you all :lol:

My old friend ran the local model shop and was partly responsible for getting me hooked on narrow gauge modelling. He had been a modeller in 009(HOn30) since it's very early days and they were notorious for bad running. When I purchased my first 009 loco, he presented me with a tin of lightweight sewing machine oil (3in1 for those in the UK) to which he said he had added a special ingredient. He gave me instructions to put a small amount on a soft cloth and rub it along the top of the rails. It worked beautifully so I stuck with it.

One night, over a drink the subject came up and I had to ask what the secret ingredient was. With a big smile on his face, he told me it was graphite. Then he got into storytelling mode (hmmm, is that where I get it from :) ). Prior to him opening his model shop, he had been an electrician in the airforce, working on frontline fighter aircraft (BAC Lightning for those interested) and though it wasn't officially allowed, all the electricians used the oil and graphite on the aircrafts electrics to cut down on the amount of maintenance, mainly on switches and the like from what I remember. With an even bigger grin on his face, he added, now dont try running your trains at Mach2 :) . Hope he is reading this, he would have loved this forum :) .

The problem with using oil though, is that over time, it gets a bit mucky and can start to attract dirt. It was after a session of wiping off the accumulated muck, that I struck on the idea of using a pencil which seemed to work, without the mess and from there it was a natural progression to move to a carpenters pencil which was wide enough to put a grove in, preventing it from sliding off the top of the rail. As the saying goes, the rest is history and I have been using the method for over 15 years now, so thanks Pete, your legacy lives on and I will continue to preach to the unconverted :wink:

OK, I will shut up now, just setting the record straight :)
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Postby Sir Briand » Mon Aug 17, 2009 2:07 am

Thanks Steve for those very interesting contributions.

I personally prefer a short graphite stick because I find it difficult to use a carpenters pencil in a tunnel and the stick halves the time it needs to do the job as I can do 2 rails at a time 8)
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Postby Prof Klyzlr » Mon Aug 17, 2009 4:35 am

Gn15 Team,

Glen A wrote:

(I gather Prof might be another by his recent tip to take a track rubber to an exhibition).


Unfortunately this is not quite correct :wink:

I use a PECO rubber when circumstances require,
to clean the tracks of PVA glue, paint, and other "construction debris",
(IE the really hard crusty stuff which should never make it's way to the railhead)

and I use and rely on Graphite on all other occasions,
to keep things running smoothly under "pressure show conditions",
and inbetween shows when "regular maintainence" is as infrequent as my personal operating sessions...

PS NZ supply of "Progresso" Woodless Pencil Graphite sticks,
(I prefer the 2B grade...)

http://www.draw-art.co.nz/products/penspencils.htm

https://www.schoolsuppliesordermax.co.n ... ct=2828529

http://www.artsupplies.co.nz/store/deta ... ncko89112b
Happy Modelling,
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Postby Glen A » Mon Aug 17, 2009 5:55 am

Thanks Steve (and Prof).

On my way home tonight I called in at an arts shop.
Although the internet tells you that all pencils are made of graphite, I discovered that there was a big difference between the 'normal' 2B pencil I had been using and a proper 'graphite' pencil.
So I actually brought a graphite crayon for $5. (no wood around the sides, just one big lump of graphite, so Gno Gneed to sharpen it). :wink:

So I'll have another try now that I have got the right equipment. :wink:

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Postby Sir Briand » Mon Aug 17, 2009 8:13 pm

The subject gets murkier, or should it be gummier?:roll:

I forwarded on Steve's post of Aug 16 in which he mentioned the gent he got the graphite idea from had worked on Lightnings. A fellow modeller (OO but I don't hold that against him :lol: ) has worked in the aircraft industry for years. His last job was a project manager with Airbus on the 380 when he was based in Hamburg and visited a number of area RRs.

The Lightning connection is interesting as I when I started my apprenticeship in the drawing office, 90% of my work was on Lightnings. The contacts on most aircraft switches are hermetically sealed so I can’t imagine where they would be. The only thing I can think is that they might have been micro switches where the rubber protection bellows had failed. Nowadays they use proximity sensors so there are no moving parts with no bellows to fail.  
 
I think we have to be careful when we talk about graphite. We were round at Terry Browns for a session the other day and some of his wheels had a significant build up of grunge as I think he had gone overboard in the application of graphite. The graphite artist’s sticks seem to have a waxy carrier which forms a gummy film which sticks dirt to the rail, perhaps a pencil lead does not.
 
I started using graphite sticks but noticed that it was leaving a fine gummy film and figured that couldn’t be good.
 
I’m still not convinced one way or the other so for a while I will be using ACT- 6006 TRACK CLEANER in my Centreline track cleaner. This leaves a thin protective film similar to Wahl oil.
 
A pencil, the oldest method by far, may be the best in the end.
 
Cheers
Mike

Just a clarification regarding my statement “A pencil, the oldest method by far”.
 
The Trix salesmen on the Bassett Lowke show stands before the war were known to pencil the tracks to improve the running. Mind you, these were tinplate rails
 
Cheers
Mike


Now, as I said in an earlier post, I have been using the same stick for a long time. Arches was built around 1996 - 1998. Say I started using graphite in 2000.
My stick is at least 10 years old and there is no build up on the rails or wheels.


ERGO: There are differences in artist graphite sticks :shock:

Look for hard sticks with no Bs in grading would seem to be the answer.

Carpenter's pencils are fine for small layouts IMO but not for larger ones. As most Gn15 layouts are small, OK for these.
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Postby Steve Bennett » Mon Aug 17, 2009 9:35 pm

Well I cant offer any clarification on what the oil and graphite got used for on the Lightning, as he died nearly 10 years ago. Prior to Lightnings he had worked on Vampires, Meteors, Javelins and Hunters, so it may have been a carry over from one of them :)

As for the gummy coating from graphite sticks, i dont know, I have never used them. I like the carpenters pencils and never felt the need to change. They are cleaner to carry around, I have even been known to carry one behind my ear :lol: but more normally in my toolbox :wink: . In fact I usually have several dotted around my exhibition gear, you know what it's like, you can never find one when you want it :lol:
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Postby John New » Mon Aug 17, 2009 9:58 pm

I will try graphite on the next layout.

1) As it conducts electricity obviously you have to make sure you don't bridge any isolation gaps and cause shorts. (The old pencil doen a spark plug trick comes to mind) Are there any other numpties mistakes to be avoided?

2) A tip for UK readers - next time there is an election go and vote latish on when it has got quiet. It you know the polling staff so it is practical for you to collect the pencils later ask if they will keep back the fat pencils for you at close of poll.

Tip (2) is because usually all the stationary and other cheap sundries simply get chucked away because it is far more costly to recycle, sort and store the sundries between elections than just buy new complete packs each time. (Get a model railway freebie for your taxes)

Only thing as a polling station staffer - don't ask if we are heaving with voters at the time!!
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Postby Gerry Bullock » Tue Aug 18, 2009 6:39 am

John New wrote:2) A tip for UK readers - next time there is an election go and vote latish on when it has got quiet. It you know the polling staff so it is practical for you to collect the pencils later ask if they will keep back the fat pencils for you at close of poll.



At a £1 for 12 Carpenters pencils (local market) I'll not bother with the Polling Station. :twisted: :lol: :lol:
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Postby John New » Tue Aug 18, 2009 7:30 am

At a £1 for 12 Carpenters pencils (local market) I'll not bother with the Polling Station.


Shows how long it is since I bought any Gerry, didn't realize they had got that cheap.
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Postby Steve Bennett » Tue Aug 18, 2009 9:37 am

John New wrote:1) As it conducts electricity obviously you have to make sure you don't bridge any isolation gaps and cause shorts. (The old pencil doen a spark plug trick comes to mind) Are there any other numpties mistakes to be avoided?


If you have enough to fill an isolating gap, you will have far too much on there :lol: It really only needs a very thin coating on the head of the rail, no more than the depth of a pencil line drawn on a piece of paper, so I dont think you need to worry about that one :wink:
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